The Unconditional Gift of God
Zane has taken his thinking to its logical conclusion (ie. no conditions for salvation), and it is being shown for what it is, bankrupt!
In it this critic betrays his lack of understanding in both what Zane Hodges believes and what God’s gratuitous offer of eternal life entails. Let us take this opportunity to correct him.
There are two ways to look at conditionality in reference to eternal life: A) From the perspective of God, and B) from the perspective of the lost.
Imagine a Rescue Mission having a sign stating:
Tomorrow evening, supper will be served at 5PM. It is offered freely and will be available without condition.
This would be quite outstanding. Why? I have done some work at the Rescue Mission in San Diego. Their meals are indeed free, but they do come with a significant condition. For those who are not in their program, in order to receive the food, the Mission requires that you sit through a 45-minute sermon before you can be fed. If you fail to remain in the meeting hall for the whole time, you will not be admitted into the dining facility.
The sign in the imagined illustration above states that no such condition exists; so essentially the dinner is given unconditionally. In this scenario, the Mission does not require any conditions. They are presenting meals to anyone free from condition. Yet we must understand that this dinner offered unconditionally by the Rescue Mission is only unconditional from the perspective of the Mission itself. The Mission is not requiring anything of the recipients. If they (the recipients) want the dinner they may have the dinner without condition.
But from the perspective of the recipient of the dinner, he has to get himself to the Rescue Mission and receive the dinner. Therefore from the perspective of the beneficiary of the food, there are two enumerable conditions that must be met in order for him to possess the dinner that the Rescue Mission nonetheless offers him unconditionally. The one who desires the dinner must put himself in a position that will allow him to avail himself of the meal. Next, the recipient must actually receive the dinner into his hands.
There are lessons to be learned in the above illustration. Let us learn them by now comparing the story above to the doctrine of soteriology (salvation).
From God’s point of view, He offers the gift of eternal life Absolutely Free!, without condition.
1. There are no pre-salvation works to be done.
2. It is not required to make commitments to serve Him.
3. There is no prescribed condition to turn from one’s sins.
4. It is not stipulated that one must surrender his life to God.
5. There are no required tests to be passed; no mandated doctrines to be assented to.
6. Indeed, God does not require anything at the hands of the lost
The gift of everlasting life is just that: a gift, a gift given by grace. As such its offer is unconditional from God’s perspective.
Whoever desires, let him take the water of life freely [Gk dorean = “as a gift,” “for nothing,” “not subject to a given condition”].
From man’s point of view, there is a general condition and a specific condition that both need to be met in order to avail himself of God’s unconditional offer of eternal life. The specific condition is that the man must receive eternal life in the way that God has revealed it to be done: by believing in Jesus Christ for eternal life. The general condition is that the man must place himself in the position to be able to fulfill the specific one:
1. He may have to strive to find out about God and Christ.
2. He will have to be open to the evidence of the gospel.
3. He will have to consider and deliberate upon the data he is exposed to
Let us put the pieces together. God is like the Rescue Mission that put out the above sign, offering a meal free of condition and cost, in that God offers eternal life on the same basis. The willing beneficiary of the meal is like the desirous recipient of eternal life in that they both need to position themselves into a place enabling them to receive the graciousness of their benefactor and then actually receive the benefit.
Regarding the San Diego Rescue Mission (the actual one I have associated with), they offer meals free of monetary charge, but require a commitment nonetheless, and is therefore conditional; they are demanding an action that if left undone would disqualify one from their offer. In this instance, there is nothing wrong with the San Diego Rescue Mission’s policy. I applaud it. If a hungry homeless man wishes to be fed it shouldn’t be too much to sit in on a gospel presentation as a requirement for food. It is also shrewd for the S.D.R.M. to require such, for many if not most of these people would never willingly subject themselves to the Word of God.
In the current controversy, the ‘Theological Legalism’ of the Checklist Evangelists operates in the same way as the San Diego Rescue Mission, in that, although they may offer a gift free of monetary payment and/or meritorious endeavor, they do require conditions which preclude it from being an unconditional offer received only through Free Grace.
When I used to be associated with the San Diego Rescue Mission, I often talked to some of the homeless people, who weren’t part of the program, outside of the shelter. Many of them, although hungry, did not want to expend the necessary resources in order to fulfill the conditions laid out by the S.D.R.M. in order to get the food. The conditions laid out by the Mission therefore had the potential to keep the Mission’s food out of the homeless person’s hand. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t charge the Mission with any wrongdoing here. I am only making a point. Furthermore, when I used to sit in on the sermons that preceded the meal I often used to see people get up and go out the door (and were not let back in). The conditions laid down by the Mission were too much for those individuals to bear at that moment. Again, in this instance, the conditions kept these individuals from receiving the benefit of the Mission’s conditional offer.
God’s offer to the lost is, in its very essence and core, an unconditional offer. Anytime men and women add conditions and requirements to God’s gratuitous offer of eternal life through the Lord Jesus Christ they frustrate grace to one degree or another. We have been charged to clearly and accurately give to men the hope that is in the gospel, eternal life free of charge and condition. When we corrupt the gospel in any way we fail the One who entrusted it to us. And woe to us who presume to add to the words of God! Anytime this happens it is sin.
Those who impose conditions on the reception of eternal life are adding to the words of God on the matter. The Gift of God, eternal life, is essentially unconditional. This cannot be overemphasized! Christ, Himself, fulfilled all the conditions for making this everlasting benefit available apart from any imposed and God-mandated requirements on the lost.
The methods and Theological Legalism of the Checklist Evangelists, whereby they impose conditions upon God’s unconditional offer, could preclude the lost from everlasting life, keep assurance from the saved, and bring down the discipline of God upon those who advocate this position.
Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out!
"For who has known the mind of the LORD?
Or who has become His counselor?"
"Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?"
For of Him and through Him and to Him are all things, to whom be glory forever. Amen.
The following is something that was written by my friend, WJC. It is a portion of an article that he wrote that will be showing up here soon.
We must carefully guard against creating a doctrine in which we apply and impose our human understanding and man made requirements upon God and on that basis presume to know how God is obliged to operate…. it would be far safer in light of the evidence to conclude that God closely and consistently guards the simplicity of the offer of eternal life – even in the post-cross era…. It may sound silly to have to say this but, in studying the scriptures, we must always be careful to recognize that God is free to act according to His gracious and merciful will - unconstrained by any human attempts to impose our own parameters.
God has been pleased to offer the gift of eternal life apart from any imposed conditions or requirements. This decision of His, based upon His unfathomable counsel, leaves us in awe. This resolution from God does not sit well with some and they doubt whether or not He has indeed determined to operate in this way. Questioning this dumbfounding consideration has led individuals to frustrate grace in varying degrees by introducing conditions into what is and shall always be unconditional.
2 Cor 9:15
Thanks be to God for His indescribable gift!